Are the Padres too Right Handed?


If you have been paying attention to what the baseball pundits are saying about the 2015 Padres they have been largely critical of two things, outfield defense and a right handed heavy lineup.

However, unlike many experts, I think the fact that the Padres lineup will be filled with right handed hitters won’t hurt the team in the long run. Here are the reasons why:

Several years ago I read a fantastic article that explained why, what many baseball minds consider common knowledge, that left handed hitters hit better than their right handed counterparts, was actually a myth. After some digging I was able to find that article by John Walsh of Hardball Times and I encourage all of you to read it.

Walsh explains that if you look at a career batting average, it appears as though the left handed hitters have an advantage. For example, from 2000 to 2007, lefties batted .270 and righties batted .263. Additionally, over the last 50 years, 54 of the 100 batting titles have been won by left handers and only 35 by righties (11 were switch hitters if you were checking my math).

So as Walsh points out, at a quick glance it appears as though the baseball minds are right and the lefties have an advantage, but that isn’t the whole story.

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Several reasons that people give for lefties having this so called “advantage”, is the fact that they start a couple of steps closer to first base, thus beating out more closer plays. Some people say they have the platoon advantage, meaning they face opposite-facing pitching more often. Another reason is the positional bias, as Walsh puts it, this comes down to certain defensive positions where only right handed throwers play. These positions are catcher, second base, third base and shortstop. As Walsh points out, since three of these position are defensive first positions, teams are willing to sacrifice offense for a good glove. While not all players that throw right handed bat right handed (i.e. Joe Mauer) they will work to lower the batting average for righties.

Several of these arguments may be invalid if we actually dig deeper. First, the closer to first base argument. In his article, Walsh breaks down the number of infield hits from each side of the plate and finds that right handed batters actually hit a higher percentage of infield hits (.079 % for righties and .074% for lefties). This is most likely due to the fact that lefties are more likely to hit the ball toward the right side of the infield (closer to first), and the righties are more likely to hit it toward the left side.

In the article Walsh also goes into great detail on adjusting the batting average for positional bias, which I won’t get into at this time, but I encourage you to review his math and reasoning behind it. Basically once he did the math, he determined that the differential in average would only be around two percentage points, rather than the seven we saw from 2000 -2007.

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So from Walsh’s argument, we can extrapolate that the Padres lineup might be a little lower since they are almost all right handed hitters due to the platoon advantage. This will be a disadvantage to the Padres especially in the later innings when the Padres will have to face a teams bullpen. However, how bad are the Padres really against righties? Let’s look at the three and four hitters for the Padres and see if it will really hurt the team this year.

First, Matt Kemp. His stats versus righties are worse than when he is taking on lefties. Versus right handed pitchers Kemp has slashed .278/.333/.473. Against lefties he is batting .331/.394/.556. While we do see quite the drop off in his stats, a .278 batting average is nothing to scoff at.

With Justin Upton we see a similar trend in his stats as well. Slashing .272/.340/ .458 versus righties and .282/.393/.530 versus lefties. Not much of a drop off at all. Considering the two main Padre bats still put up decent stats against righties I am not overly worried that the Padres will struggle in 2015 because they are too heavily right handed.

In fact, the only two Padres right handers that have struggle against right handed pitching, compared to their left handed stats, are Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks. Luckily, the Friars can mask Middlebrooks’ poor performance with switch hitter Yangervis Solarte. I am also hopeful that the Padres can find a platoon solution for Norris as well.

The final reason I am not worried, is Wil Myers. Unlike a normal right handed hitter, he has actually hit better against right handed pitching over his career. His career numbers against righties are .264/.323/.420, and against lefties he has hit .242/.326/.354. He could be the exception to the rule that helps saves the Padres in 2015.

What do you guys think? Will the downfall of the Padres in 2015 be the fact that they are too right handed? Lets discuss in the comments below.

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